Image provided by Meta. Top: What meeting friends in the metaverse would look like.
On October 28, 2021, Facebook, now Meta, announced that it would be working on a new project, called the metaverse. The metaverse is a mix of virtual and augmented reality, and Meta wants to make it the future of entertainment. The announcement video gave an in-depth look at what the metaverse had to offer. Zuckerberg begins by talking about social interactions and how the metaverse would allow people to meet their friends. They then moved on to events (live concerts or parties), gaming (ping-pong and first-person shooters), and finally, fitness. Meta also included virtual working and learning, which could incite mixed feelings, especially since we just came out of lockdown.
Meta’s expectations for the metaverse seem very high, but many people don’t fully support it. Aneesh Thakkar, a senior at Washington High, says that “in its current state, the metaverse seems like a glorified video game” and that “no matter how great it may be, it will never have the same realness as your life in reality.” There won’t be any real faces to look at, any real hands to high five, or anything that constitutes meeting your friends. Nanditha Balamurugan, a junior, says that “in-person interactions are better because it’s more natural and an easier way to bond with people than over virtual reality.” It’s like meeting your friends over a Zoom call or talking over VRChat: it will never be as genuine as an in-person interaction. Social events are a different kind of interaction because there are more people than in small get-togethers. For these, Nanditha says that “we already have games, calls, watch-togethers, and live streams for concerts or games that we watch with others, so attending concerts or games in the metaverse should be better than meeting over calls.” Meta also introduced the idea of playing sports or games in the metaverse, which is interesting. The reaction time needed to play many sports is very high, so the technology will be almost impossible to implement, since the average consumer’s network speed will be too slow. The metaverse will be a lot less enjoyable if they don’t work around this. And then there is fitness, something Meta undersold. The metaverse makes you bring your own equipment to work out there. Although it may look pointless, Aneesh says he “would like to have a trainer in the metaverse to help him” which shows how the metaverse can help in higher effort tasks like fitness.
Currently, the way to use the metaverse is by spending from 300 to 400 dollars on an Oculus headset. Aneesh Thakkar says that “it would be too buggy and unrefined to buy it right now” and that “for [him] to buy the first generation of the product, it would have to be around $150 maximum.” While there are no doubts that the equipment needed will eventually become cheaper, it currently costs as much as a cell phone, which might be a better purchase than a VR headset to connect to the metaverse.
Right now, the metaverse is nothing but Meta’s dream, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible feat. Many companies are partnering with Meta to add their own contributions to the metaverse (clothing brands want to sell clothes in the metaverse, Spike, a company focused on improving productivity by changing the way emails work, adds its collaboration to make working in the metaverse more feasible, etc.) in an effort to make the metaverse a true future for entertainment. Depending on how it turns out, it could be better than its initial impressions, or it could be nothing more than a gimmick, but for now, it remains an idea. Maybe if they improve on it, the metaverse will become the future of entertainment and the internet.